It takes a workforce to make the engines run, but some 300,000 employees short across the country, we don’t know how to reignite the absentees to make the economy whole again. The absence comes as employers are struggling to fill consumer demand and economists say the shortage may be pervasive for years to come.

Workers are quitting at or near the highest rates on record from sectors such as manufacturing, retail and trade, transportation and utilities, as well as professional and business services. 

Closer to home, child-care services, home and office cleaning services, even teachers for the recently opened schools have been deeply affected.

Consumer spending is robust and employers are anxious to hire. Wages were up, holiday spending in the near future , but labor shortages appear to have a myriad of reasons. Pandemic border closures have reduced the availability of immigrant workers, many baby boomers are taking earlier retirement, and trillions of federal relief dollars have made many less eager to return to strenuous, modestly paying jobs. Family time has taken on new appeal.

Consequently, businesses cut services and raise pay. Numerous restaurants and small businesses have shut their doors. Scarce labor is changing how hotels operate. Example: eliminating breakfast buffets and asking guests to request daily room service rather than automatically providing it.

For now, the new normal is: What’s good for the worker sustains.

Janey Rifkin is a syndicated writer and longtime Health Editor of the Valley News Group.